Saturday, 6 December 2014

DA Application Number D/2014/1609 MacDonald St Erskineville

another day, another DA


I write to express concerns about the above Development Application. My position is that residential dwellings in this location are acceptable, however the density and FSR of the proposal is too high for the area.


The current controls for the area, despite meeting widespread disapproval by the local community in 2012, are nevertheless even exceeded by this development. Namely, the height control of 18m is exceeded by the 20.65m height put forward in the proposal. Further, the dwelling mix exceeds the controls for 1 bedroom apartments, and is under the minimum for 2 bedroom apartments.

This excessive height and density will increase shadowing and worsen the ‘canyoning’ effect on Eve and Macdonald streets. Further, the small apartments serve to change Erskineville’s demographic mix, reducing the proportion of more economical share housing and family groups.

The FSR for the site is 1.75, however at a widely attended Friends of Erskineville meeting in February 2012, the community resolved that an FSR of 1.0 should be maintained over this western part of the Ashmore Precinct. This would limit such a development to approximately 45 apartments with a height of 3 storeys as opposed to the proposal’s 80 apartments and 5 storeys. Such a height is more in sympathy with the existing terraces on Eve and Goddard Sts.  There is no reason to believe that the feelings of the local community have changed in the intervening time.

This lower density would avoid the necessity of a dual level car park and basement, and hence avoid  aquifer interference, concerns relating to acid sulfate soil disturbance, the necessity of dewatering and approval from the Office of Water.

Along with the new oversized developments of Erko and Eve immediately adjacent, this development puts further strain on local infrastructure, primarily roads, public transport, education (childcare, primary and secondary) and parklands. Council need not be reminded of significant local campaigns and groups struggling for improvements in these areas. There have been some small improvements in bus timetables (308) and parklands (Bamal Way), but these are far from sufficient to cope with the increasing demands placed by such developments.

The issue of parklands is but one relevant lens though which to view this development. Due to increasing demands of local population growth, a new childcare facility will be built in Sydney Park and the children’s cycle path relocated. This will result in a net reduction of green space in the park. Further, due to intensive use, some sections of grass have been replaced by artificial turf. This was an issue of some controversy in Green Square recently too. On top of that, the Westconnex interchange at St Peters plans indicate that a 12m strip of land the length of Euston Rd will be resumed for wider roads. Finally, Erskineville residents have significantly lower levels of park area per capita than the rest of Sydney however Sydney Park has to serve a much wider catchment area with 60% of park users driving to get there, according to a recent council survey. Thus the simple issue of parklands demonstrates the stresses this overly intense land use creates.

Regarding congestion and parking, despite Council’s admirable efforts to encourage active transport and car-sharing, car ownership remains stubbornly stuck at 1 car per household. For this development, there is a deficit of 20 car spaces to the 80 apartments. These cars will undoubtedly be parked on-street and further worsen the situation that Friends of Erksineville and others continue to raise concerns about. Council should use its power to limit such developments until such time as other levels of government take sufficient steps to reduce car usage.

This development does not help with housing affordability as claimed in the Statement of Environmental Effects. The SEE claims that one bedroom and studio apartments increase affordability, but this applies the wrong metric, namely that of absolute cost. One is reminded of a convenience store owner selling individual cigarettes to the homeless because they cannot afford a whole packet. When considered properly by applying unit pricing or per square metre, smaller apartments represent worse value. Further there is no formal provision of Affordable Housing in this development.

Finally, development on this scale is not necessary to achieve State or Council targets for population/dwelling growth in the LGA. As housing is a long term proposition, the long term growth rate of 1% per annum predicted by Council's own demographers is the appropriate target. This has been, and will continue to be exceeded as a result of Council approvals, which has seen a 3% per annum increase in population over the last decade.  In particular the Ashmore DCP will allow the population of Erskineville to approximately double in the next 10 years. This is a manifestly unfair outcome for the local residents, who will have to suffer this extreme densification strain in the very near future.  Further, this densification appears to be occurring faster than previously expected, with the recent sale of the entire Goodman lands to the immediate east to residential developers.

In conclusion, this DA as it stands must be rejected.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Housing Blame Game

Informative article about housing prices. The real culprits are negative gearing and generous tax relief for investors. High rise not sustainable and not going to fix the problem:

Monday, 31 March 2014

Sustainable growth for Sydney

I keep hearing about how Sydney needs sustainable growth and how this means we need to build high density housing in urban infill sites close to existing facilities. Since those people really take their sustainability seriously, I thought we should really look longer term than just the 25 year NSW Metropolitan Plans and gaze 100 years into the future.

According to the UN predictions, world population will max out at about 11 billion in 100 years, up from 7 billion now. I suppose world population growth has to slow down and nearly stop at some point, it's just not sustainable. Other predictions put the percentage of people to be living in urban areas to get to about 80%, up from the current level of 50%. Putting these two predictions together, we can guess that Sydney will need to house 2.5 times its current population 100 years from now.

Now the most sustainable thing would be to even out this growth as much as possible. I'm not sure what happens after the 100 years. I guess the construction industry can sustainably recycle decrepit buildings and focus on upgrading the existing housing stock. Therefore a constant annual growth rate of about 1% will do the trick because (1+0.01)^100=2.7 times larger which is more than enough.

Further, I guess in the long term, it would be sustainable to share the burden of growth equally between density growth and total area growth. In other words, in 100 years Sydney would be 60% larger in area and 60% denser. (1.6^2=2.56 again more than enough.) On a per annum basis, we need 0.5% density growth and 0.5% area growth. For greenfield areas, you need to match the average density of the rest of Sydney, which probably means a bit smaller than your quarter acre block. For already populated areas, the growth is 0.5% annually, achieved through increased density.

But hang on! The City of Sydney LGA population is growing at 3% annually. That's unsustainable! We have to slow down rapidly to 0.5%! Better knock back nearly all of those projects currently on the table.

Therein lies the problem. If we are really and truly committed to sustainability, we have to sustain unsustainability itself. Good old fashioned unsustainability should be heritage listed and preserved for future generations to learn from our folly. There really is no alternative but to sustain the current system - business as usual.

[Postscript: At first, I used 100 year UN predictions and urbanisation levels to predict Sydney population only half seriously, but then discovered the City of Sydney's own population predictions up to 2036 levelling out to 1% growth per annum which is exactly the same as what I came up with. See ]